Witt Lowry has a penchant for honesty. He doesn’t care about being famous. His music errs on the side of message, and his flow reminds us why he once went by “Witty,” before judgment kicked in and he simplified his name to Witt.
Buzzing since his 2013 mixtape Kindest Regards, the Connecticut native, born Mark Laurence Richard, Jr., owes the meat of his success resulting from his dedicated fanbase. To say that Witt Lowry, who just released his fourth full-length album Nevers Road, is a cult figure is to venture an understatement. Witt’s fans are driven, kind, and grateful. They sound like the best part of being an artist, minus the cathartic release of creating, of course.
“We have a very, very dedicated and hardcore fanbase,” Witt tells me with a hint of pride. “One of the most important [fan interactions] was somebody who came to a show and gave me one of the coins they got in AA. They told me their story and about how the music was able to help them through that period in their life. Things like that are the most important aspects of why we create what we create.”
As with any indie success story, too, at the heart of Witt’s career stands TuneCore, the Brooklyn, New York-based independent digital music distribution, publishing, and licensing service that allows Witt to release his music whenever he wants. “It gives us the ability to be independent,” Witt says.
Boasting over a million monthly listeners on Spotify, with his music videos frequently breaking the million-mark as well, Witt Lowry is in a unique position as an indie act. His music touches his fans, and he’s touring the world, but he admits that the lack of playlist and radio play does sometimes get him down. Even so, Lowry sounds excited about his future and grateful for the career in his hands.
As for advice he has for upcoming artists looking to follow his path? Focus on your internal progression, save up your TuneCore checks, and believe everything will come in time.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Let’s start with: Why is being an independent artist important to you?
The main reason is the fact that I get to create… I make music because I want to create art. It’s self-expression and creativity, and I think being independent gives you full range to do whatever you want when it comes to music. You don’t have to answer to other people. When you sign, sometimes, you become more of an employee and less of your own boss. You have to answer to all these other people and opinions, and it can lead you off of your vision. We can create whatever we want; we don’t have to worry about what sounds in. We don’t have to worry about what’s gonna sell the most. We can make a song tonight and put it out tomorrow morning. We don’t have to run through the wringer and get everybody else to sign off on it.
What are some of the hurdles you’ve faced while building an indie career?
Our album that we just put out [Nevers Road], we don’t get the playlisting. We don’t get the radio spins. Sometimes, it’s a bummer because there’s only so much you can do as an indie artist. But at the same time, I am more interested in creating art and stuff that has an impact on people than I care about being famous. All of those things lead to your fame, but at the end of the day, I could care less [about being famous]. We make music because the people that listen to our music are helped. I could care less about how I’m considered in the big popularity contest of the music industry.
You’re something of a cult figure, talk to me about your fans. What are they like?
We have a very, very dedicated and hardcore fanbase. That was all built through years of putting music out, people relating [to it], and doing shows. We just did a world tour, and we’re doing a world tour coming up. It’s a long process of putting music out, but it’s organic growth. Somebody finds the music then they share it with their friend. It goes like that instead of a single that pops off. That is one of the reasons why my fanbase is so passionate: they’ve been a part of the journey the entire way. That’s all we have. All the numbers are just based off of our fanbase. No playlisting... It’s just people sharing [the music], and that’s it.
What’s one of the best fan interactions you’ve ever had?
One of the most important ones was, somebody came to a show, and they gave me one of the coins they got in AA. They told me their story and about how the music was able to help them through that period in their life. Things like that are the most critical aspects of why we create what we create.
It sounds like everyone is grateful for each other.
Oh yeah, of course! There would be no career if it weren’t for all these people listening to my music. That’s the only reason I’m able to do this.
Being indie, what makes TuneCore such a valuable resource?
We release all of our stuff through TuneCore. It’s valuable in the sense that we can release anything anytime, and it can get out there. It gives us the ability to be independent. Without TuneCore, we don’t get our music on Spotify. You don’t have to sign just to get your music out there so people can hear it. Without TuneCore, our music only lives on YouTube.
Would you ever want to do a major label deal, or is the TuneCore situation so good you don’t need a deal?
I’m always open. If the perfect thing fell into our lap… I’m always open to listen. But, with that being said... I take a lot of pride in the fact that we do everything ourselves. Touring? Pay for everything out of pocket. Music videos? Pay for everything out of pocket. There’s no outside money, nothing. It’s money that comes in, a lot of it through TuneCore, and I’m able to use that to pay for a tour bus, the entire crew, music videos, and that kind of cycle. Right now, I’m in a great spot.
Has TuneCore made it easier to create, since you don’t have to worry about distro or funding?
Yeah, for sure! I don’t have to worry like you just said. When it comes to music videos, I don’t have to rely on getting an investment from a label or wherever. We’re able to create and put that out. What comes in from TuneCore, we get to use to continue to create. It takes off the burden of trying to get your music out there and all that. You know, the song is done, I upload to TuneCore, and boom! It pops up, and everyone can hear it.
I think of “CRASH,” which is so cathartic, and you put it out on your terms and your time.
Yeah, I have a song called “Last Letter,” which is about my father passing away. Things like that… In the back of my mind, even though I know, it’s not a big deal, to release a song about my father passing away. If I’m signed, I don’t own that song… You know? I don’t know if I could ever get myself to create a song like that, knowing that. [Being independent] leads to being more creative and being more vulnerable in the music, because I know that what I’m writing isn’t for somebody else to own.
Lastly, what’s the best advice you have for indie artists looking to stay indie but be profitable enough to be full-time artists?
To go back to TuneCore, it’s the reason we’re able to do all that. If you wanna stay independent, but you still wanna be able to make a living and invest in yourself, it’s just about being smart with the way you maneuver. I spent a lot of time-saving up so I could afford to do things. It’s just about that build. It gets a little bit bigger every time. It’s always about progression within yourself.